by Tony Attwood
2022/23 is only the sixth time this century that Arsenal have won their first two league matches in a season. Put another way, only in about a quarter of the seasons Arsenal have played since 2000 have they opened with two wins.
The last time this happened was in 2020/21 where our first defeat was in league game three and we finished the season in eighth.
After two league games we were third behind Leicester and Everton. We’d also won the community shield beating Liverpool on penalities. Leicester finished 5th and Everton 10th suggesting that early success is not much of a guide to the future.
|29 Aug 2020||Arsenal v Liverpool||W||1-1 (5-4)||FA Community Shield|
|12 Sep 2020||Fulham v Arsenal||W||0-3||Premier League|
|19 Sep 2020||Arsenal v West Ham United||W||2-1||Premier League|
|23 Sep 2020||Leicester City v Arsenal||W||0-2||League Cup|
|28 Sep 2020||Liverpool v Arsenal||L||3-1||Premier League|
In the 2019/20 season it was a straight two wins, each by one goal and then a defeat to Liverpool away. Newcastle finished 12th and Burnley 17th. Arsenal finished in 8th which pretty much confirms that just winning the first couple of games against ordinary sides is not an ideal way to read the future.
|11 Aug 2019||Newcastle United v Arsenal||W||0-1||Premier League|
|17 Aug 2019||Arsenal v Burnley||W||2-1||Premier League|
|24 Aug 2019||Liverpool v Arsenal||L||3-1||Premier League|
The start to the 2009/10 league season could not have been better, with a 10-2 goal difference after two games, before things fell apart. But we did end the season in third.
|15 Aug 2009||Everton v Arsenal||W||1-6||Premier League|
|22 Aug 2009||Arsenal v Portsmouth||W||4-1||Premier League|
|29 Aug 2009||Manchester United v Arsenal||L||2-1||Premier League|
|12 Sep 2009||Manchester City v Arsenal||L||4-2||Premier League|
This was of course the second part of the 49, so you’ll know there were a lot of unbeaten wins going on around this time. We won the first five games of the season scoring 19 goals in the process, before a 2-2 home draw with Bolton of all people got in the way of progress. The 49 came to an end in the tenth league game of the season with a 2-0 defeat to Manchester United.
|15 Aug 2004||Everton v Arsenal||W||1-4||Premier League|
|22 Aug 2004||Arsenal v Middlesbrough||W||5-3||Premier League|
|25 Aug 2004||Arsenal v Blackburn Rovers||W||3-0||Premier League|
|28 Aug 2004||Norwich City v Arsenal||W||1-4||Premier League|
|11 Sep 2004||Fulham v Arsenal||W||0-3||Premier League|
|18 Sep 2004||Arsenal v Bolton Wanderers||D||2-2||Premier League|
|25 Sep 2004||Manchester City v Arsenal||W||0-1||Premier League|
|02 Oct 2004||Arsenal v Charlton Athletic||W||4-0||Premier League|
|16 Oct 2004||Arsenal v Aston Villa||W||3-1||Premier League|
The Unbeaten season started, despite its name, with a defeat – on penalties to Manchester United in the Community Shield, but since it was the unbeaten season, there’s no point in my listing all the games. There were 38 of them. But just for comparison here is the start of the season. Little did we know of what was to come.
|16 Aug 2003||Arsenal v Everton||W||2-1||Premier League|
|24 Aug 2003||Middlesbrough v Arsenal||W||0-4||Premier League|
|27 Aug 2003||Arsenal v Aston Villa||W||2-0||Premier League|
And to show how little the opening games really tell us, let’s go back to 2001/2, when we also won the title. The opening was hardly auspicious. A 0-4 away win at Middlesbrough was good, but not out of the ordinary
|18 Aug 2001||Middlesbrough v Arsenal||W||0-4||Premier League|
|21 Aug 2001||Arsenal v Leeds United||L||1-2||Premier League|
|25 Aug 2001||Arsenal v Leicester City||W||4-0||Premier League|
|08 Sep 2001||Chelsea v Arsenal||D||1-1||Premier League|
The six points we had from the first three league games resulted in the table looking like this…
Premier League table after close of play on 28 August 2001
Bolton were notorious for their style of play, not just for the roughness of their fouling, but also for the way in which they moved the fouling from one player to another to another to avoid the referee getting out the yellow card for constant fouling. Untold named it at the time, rotational fouling, and for many years we were the only people to use it as the phrase to describe Bolton’s team behaviour. However later it became a phrase that was used occasionally in radio and TV commentaries.
In the end, like all cheats, they were found out and after 11 years of kicking attackers in the Premier League to bits, they were finally relegated, and by 2016/17 they were in the third tier. They have since had one more season in the Championship before once more descending into a league more suited to their style of football. Two years ago they were in the fourth tier, but last season climbed back to the third, finishing ninth.
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3 Replies to “Winning the opening two league games is not that common for Arsenal”
Well, it is interesting to see that Crystal Palace have held Pool! to a draw.
Which puts our victory there into a different light.
Watching Charlie Patino play in his first start for Blackpool. In the first half, you’d have to say that he is feeling his way into the squad. They have him playing in an advanced midfield role on the right side but he is not imposing himself on the match so far. When he does get the ball he is making the right decisions but he is not demanding the ball from his more aggressive but less skilled teammates. Understandable for a new fellow on the squad.
I know 2 games is a small sample size but I really believe this is an Uncommon Arsenal Team. The commitment, the work rate and the definitive style of play have been uncommon for Arsenal lately as you’ve clearly illustrated with the tables above. There’s no reason this can’t continue. They may not be on a level with Manchester City and Liverpool but they are closer in quality than they’ve been in many a season. Chelsea and Tottenham should be a test but Arsenal should play them even at least. Saliba and Gabriel are the strongest centre-half pairing in a long time.
The rest of the league really don’t match up with Arsenal and should be beaten consistently. I think they’ll be top 4, Chelsea dropping out.
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